India-Pakistan: Peaceful Intentions Prevail

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January 14, 2016: One little noticed success in Pakistan was the sharp reduction in Islamic terrorist and gangster violence in Karachi. This is the largest city in the country (14 million people, eight percent of the population) and produces a quarter of the GDP. But since 2001 violence there has gotten out of control. In 2013 the government and military agreed to cooperate in pacifying Karachi. Military involvement in policing cities has always been contentious in Pakistan but the situation in Karachi is considered a special case. The offensive against Islamic terrorists in the northwest, begun in mid-2014, uncovered (via prisoners and captured documents) plans by several Islamic terror groups to carry out a major expansion into Karachi. In response the army shifted forces to Karachi in 2015. As a result in 2015 major crime (murder, kidnapping, extortion and grand theft) were all down more than 60 percent. Murders were reduced to 943, half the number in 2014. That’s still 6.7 murders per 100,000 population. But in 2012 the murder rate was 15 per 100,000 which was very high for areas outside the tribal territories. In 2013 the rate went up to 18. For comparison purposes, the murder rate for all of Pakistan is 7.8, while it’s 3.5 in India and 2.4 in Afghanistan. In the Western hemisphere it’s about 8 while in Europe it is between 3 and 4. Middle Eastern nations have rates of between 5 and 10. The United States rate is about six per 100,000 and even lower (4.4) in the largest American city (New York), which has eight million people. There are other parts of the world that are more violent. In Africa, especially Congo, Sudan and South Africa, you very high murder rates. Only South Africa has a sufficiently effective government to actually keep accurate track of the murder rate, mostly from crime, but it's over 50 per 100,000. In Karachi the Islamic terrorists had some unique disadvantages. Many Taliban fled the fighting in North Waziristan and went to Karachi, which has a large Pushtun population. Actually the population of Karachi has doubled since 2001 in large part because so many Pushtuns (Afghan and Pakistani) have moved in to Karachi to get away from the tribal feuds and Islamic terrorists in the northwest. So when the Taliban show up in a Pushtun neighborhood they are often quietly reported to the police. Cell phones make this easy, and unlike the tribal territories, the Taliban cannot shut down cell phone service, even briefly, in Karachi. Despite the Taliban connection the main goal of the security operations in Karachi is to shut down (or greatly reduce) the criminal activities of the Islamic terrorists and their political allies. These groups need money and they find it easy to use extortion and kidnapping to raise cash. The dozens of separate crews (often part of a larger Islamic terror group) have been identified pursued and killed or captured. Another target is the many religious schools that are actually bases and training centers for Islamic terror groups. Dozens of illegal religious schools in Sindh province (where Karachi is) were found to have links with Islamic terror groups. Most of those religious schools are in Karachi and the government went after all the illegal (refused to register and be monitored) religious schools, starting with those know to be used by Islamic terrorists. The most difficult foe in Karachi has been the many gangs (some Islamic radicals, many not) with connections to the two feuding political parties in Karachi and the surrounding Sindh province. It was the violent practices of these two political parties in Karachi that made military intervention there acceptable. Even many leaders of these two parties quietly went along with the Karachi operation, in the hope that it would break an escalating cycle of violence.

In contrast during 2015 India suffered 722 deaths from Islamic terrorism and rebels (communist and tribal). That’s down 26 percent from 2014. The biggest source (35 percent of deaths) was communist rebels in eastern India. Islamic terrorism accounted for only 24 percent, most of them in Kashmir. This violence has been declining for years while Islamic terrorism in Pakistan only began to shrink after the army attacked a notorious Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan (on the Afghan border) and cracked down on Islamic terrorists in Karachi.

January 13, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) an Islamic terrorist suicide bomber attacked police gathering to escort polio vaccination teams to work. The attack killed 13 police, a soldier and a civilian. So far this year polio cases In Pakistan are down 70 percent compared to 2014 and that’s mainly because there have been fewer Islamic terrorist attacks on vaccination teams, especially in the northwest. Such attacks still occur throughout the country but with less frequency and impact. For years these attacks killed polio vaccination workers who were treating children. Vaccinations had to be halted temporarily so police could search for the killers and determine when it was safe to resume. These killing usually occur in the tribal territories, where opposition to vaccination is more widespread and effective. This has led to a large number of polio cases (303 in 2014, the highest since 1998), mostly in the tribal areas. Among the refugees from the North Waziristan fighting are over 200,000 children who have never been vaccinated. Some of those refugees fled to Karachi where over a million people from the tribal areas have settled in the last decade. Some 80 percent of recent polio cases in Pakistan still occur in the tribal territories of the northwest. Now the vaccination teams are able to vaccinate most of the North Waziristan children in safety in the refugee camps and in relative safety in Waziristan. This reduced the expected high number of polio cases for 2015 and makes the total elimination of polio a possibility once more. The Taliban, and many other Islamic terrorist groups believe polio vaccinations are a Western plot to poison Moslem children. Since 2012 67 polio vaccination workers in Pakistan have been killed by Islamic terrorists. The most recent attack was claimed by one of the smaller Pakistani Islamic terrorist groups (Jundullah) but no vaccination workers were killed. That, in Pakistan, is progress.

In Afghanistan (Jalalabad) ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) attacked the Pakistani consulate. Three attackers and seven security personnel died. This was the first time ISIL went after a Pakistani government target. Apparently four suicide bombers were involved in this attack and the fourth one got away.

January 12, 2016: The U.S. Congress has halted the sale of eight F-16 fighters to Pakistan in an effort to get Pakistan to reduce its support for Islamic terrorism.

January 11, 2016: Officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met in Pakistan to try and restart the peace talks with the Taliban. But it soon became clear that the real problem was not Taliban peace talks (not likely because of factionalism within the Afghan Taliban) but the growing hostility between Pakistan and its neighbors Afghanistan and India. Pakistan is accused of harboring Islamic terrorists who make attacks on Afghanistan and India. Officially Pakistan denies any involvement but unofficially Pakistan says it “tolerates” Islamic terrorists who help it deal with Indian threats, especially those done via a growing alliance with Afghanistan. India insists, and the historical record backs them up, that they have no such designs on Pakistan. A perusal of Indian media over the last half century confirms that. Indians don’t really care what happens in Pakistan as long as it does not hurt India. Thus Pakistani Islamic terrorists who attack the few Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan is an issue inside India, but a minor one. The dispute over Kashmir is a bigger deal in Pakistan than in India but there is nothing to indicate Indian enthusiasm for war with Pakistan over Kashmir. Then there is Afghanistan, where Pakistan has been meddling for decades. Many Pakistanis openly declare this to be a Pakistan right and obligation because Pakistan considers Afghans incapable of governing themselves and in need of Pakistani guidance. This view is not appreciated in Afghanistan and bothers India as well. A growing number of Pakistanis complain that this constant state of tension is caused by the Pakistani military, which needs this imaginary threat to justify a bloated military budget and hide corrupt and illegal behavior by military leaders. China is concerned because all this Islamic terrorist violence is bad for business and China does not care of Pakistan demanding that China block UN efforts to crack down on Pakistan based Islamic terrorist groups that target India. But in order to get Pakistan to suppress Chinese Islamic terrorists based in Pakistan China had to help out Pakistan in the UN.

January 9, 2016: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) an American UAV missile attack killed five members of the Pakistani Taliban. Just across the border in Afghanistan a similar attack killed at least twenty members of ISIL.

January 8, 2016: In the Pakistani capital nearly two thousand Pakistani Shia demonstrated against Pakistan joining a Saudi led anti-terrorist organization. Shia believe this effort is directed against Iran and Shia Moslems in general. Most of the demonstrators specifically condemned Saudi Arabia for the recent (January 2nd) execution of a Saudi Shia cleric who was accused of encouraging Shia violence in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani decision to not send troops to help Saudi Arabia fight Shia rebels in Yemen was, in part, to avoid problems with Pakistani Shia. Pakistan points out that over 20 percent of Pakistanis are Shia, Iran is a neighbor and trading partner and Pakistan is heavily involved with battling local Islamic terrorists. Off the record Pakistanis point out that most of this Islamic radicalism began in Arabia, financed by Islamic charities sponsored by Arab oil money (from governments and wealthy individuals). The oil rich Gulf Arabs are angry with what is perceived as ingratitude and betrayal after years of generous financial support. Pakistan made matters worse by announcing it would cooperate with Iran to try and solve the Yemen unrest (where Iran admits it backs the Shia rebels) peacefully. That was seen as insulting to Saudi Arabia, which had publicly asked Pakistan to join the Saudi led coalition (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt) fighting Shia rebels in Yemen. At the same time Pakistan assured Saudi Arabia that Pakistan would provide military assistance if the territory of Saudi Arabia were invaded. That would only happen if Iran attacked, although Pakistan refused to elaborate on that possibility.

January 7, 2016: In southwest Pakistan (Quetta) an Afghan Taliban leader was killed by a gunmen from a dissident Afghan Taliban faction.

January 5, 2016: After years of trying Pakistan and China finally got commitments from two customers (Nigeria and Sri Lanka) for the JF-17 jet fighter. This is a largely Chinese effort but Pakistan is a major investor and also assembles it in Pakistan. The two customers are ordering eleven JF-17s (eight for Sri Lanka) at a very attractive price.

January 3, 2016: Afghanistan accused Pakistan of organizing the attack on the Indian consulate in the north Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The attack failed, but only after a 25 hour siege of a building near the consulate that the attackers were firing from. The attackers were heard speaking Urdu (the language of Pakistan) rather than the languages common in Mazar-e-Sharif (Dari or Pushtu). The attackers also displayed a discipline and tactical skill lacking in the usual suicidal Islamic terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. One reason the attack failed was the Afghanistan allows India to bring in highly trained security personnel to guard diplomatic facilities and major Indian aid projects. This discourages most Islamic terrorist groups and explains why the Pakistanis sent in four professionals for this attack. Apparently one of the reasons for this attack was the successful Indian crackdown on Pakistani sponsored Islamic terrorism in Kashmir. All four attackers and an Afghan policeman were killed while four civilians were wounded during the operation.

January 2, 2016: In northwest India (Punjab, just south of Kashmir and on the Pakistani border) six Islamic terrorists attacked an Indian air base and disrupted base operations for three days until the last of them could be hunted down and killed. The attackers dressed in Indian Army uniforms and entered the base by getting over a wall without being seen. Despite warnings that such an attack was coming (and sending some commandos to the base in anticipation) the attackers were not detected until they entered some buildings. At that point a siege began because the six attackers had brought plenty of weapons, ammo and explosives with them. By the 5th is was all over, with all six attackers dead along with one civilian and seven security personnel. India blamed Pakistan and many in both countries saw the Pakistani military as responsible because only they gain from more hostility between the Indian and Pakistani governments.

December 31, 2015: Pakistan established a hotline with Afghanistan so officers can use it to contact each other quickly when there are border incidents that could escalate into more violent incidents. The hotline was tested today and worked.

At the end of 2015 a number of very senior Indian officials went to Russia to meet with their counterparts and one items at the top of the agenda was the continued reliability problems with the Su-30MKI jet fighters. Fifty of these Russian designed aircraft were built in Russia for India and the rest of the 272 aircraft order is being assembled locally. Deliveries should be complete by 2019 and at the moment India is not keen on ordering any more. There is a reason for that. India has been complaining out about these reliability problems since 2010 and the most telling statistic is the percentage of Su-30MKIs out of service for maintenance or repairs. Russia promised that this would only be about 25 percent, which is competitive with similar Western aircraft. India points out that in reality between 40 and 45 percent of the Su-30MKIs are out of service, many for reliability problems that Russia assured India would not happen. The impact of this lower availability means that of the 210 Su-30MKIs India has only about 126 are available to fight rather than the 157 Russia promised. That means 31 fewer Su-30MKIs available to use in wartime. That is a significant loss and India is demanding a solution. Most of the problems are related to engines and Russia says it has narrowed most of the problems down to difficulties related to ball bearings. The engines are also assembled in India, using Russian and Indian made parts. Russia has devised several fixes for the engine problem but the readiness (for combat) rate of the Su-30MKI has not changed. India is demanding that Russia allow Indian firms to manufacture many more spare parts. Russia does not like to do that because spare parts are more profitable than the aircraft.

December 30, 2015: In northwest Pakistan (Khyber) a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a government compound and killed 26 people, mostly civilians there to get identity cards. The bomber was from a Taliban faction which was fighting the main Pakistani Taliban as well as the Pakistani government.

December 29, 2015: In Kashmir there has been peace on the Pakistani border for fifty days, which is unusual and largely attributed to high level diplomacy by the Indian leader and reciprocity by elected politicians in Pakistan. Less discussed is the Pakistani effort to curb the political power of their military, which is responsible for continued violence on the Indian border. Elected leaders in Pakistan have struggled for decades to control their military and have been more successful at it lately in large part because most Pakistanis are fed up with the violence generated inside Pakistan by Islamic terror groups backed by the military. Since 2001 over 47,000 Pakistanis have died because of Islamic terrorist violence, most of it the result of the Pakistani military sponsoring Islamic terrorist groups since the late 1970s. The military did this discreetly but year-by-year it became more of an open secret. The military always blamed the Islamic terrorist violence in Pakistan on India, but few Pakistanis believe that anymore. More Pakistanis note that India, with six times the population, had 22 percent fewer terrorism related deaths than Pakistan since 2001. Moreover the biggest source (76 percent) of terrorism related deaths in India is secular (communist and tribal) rebels. In Pakistan over 90 percent of terrorism related deaths are related to Islamic terrorists.

December 28, 2015: In Bangladesh commandos killed two members of Islamic terrorist group JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) in the capital. Actually the two blew themselves up when cornered, wounding one soldier. In the last week three other members of JMB have been arrested and a large cache of JMB weapons (including suicide bomb vests and bomb components) was seized with the help of tips from the public. JMB has been around since 1998 and wants to turn Bangladesh into a religious dictatorship. JMB turned to violence in 2005 and has been at war with the government ever since. Bangladesh had 42 Islamic terrorism related deaths in 2015, down from 60 in 2014 and a record 379 in 2013. The 2013 surge was 69 percent of all Islamic terrorist deaths since 2005 and a sign that Islamic terrorism continues to have a difficult time getting a foothold in Bangladesh. Actually most of the terrorism related deaths were political rather than religious but in the last few years Islamic terrorism has gotten a lot more attention in the news.

December 24, 2015: In Nigeria pirates released five Indian sailors they had taken from a ship offshore on the 11th. It was unclear if ransom was paid. Piracy remains a problem although off Nigeria is means pirates sneaking on big ships at night, stealing portable items of value and perhaps taking a few key personnel to hold for ransom.

 

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